Library Wines: Part 8 The Killer ‘B’
Cigliuti Barbaresco Serraboella 1997
Retail $70, secured for $24
We will also be examining the
Norton Malbec Reserva ‘08 $12-15
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico ‘08 $15-20
I scored this Barb’ at my favorite wine store, a place that melds old world charm with new world skill. They have a panopoly of marvelous aged wines from around the world and are the biggest suppliers of wines for my library wines series. I’ll tell you who they are if you ask nicely. I don’t want everyone swooping on my supply.
That said, great Barbaresco is always pricey. One of the most prestigious regions for fine wine in Italy is Piedmont. Standing among the foothills of the French and Swiss Alps, Piedmont literally means “at the foot of the mountains”. Widely regarded for exceptionally long-lived wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, Piedmont produces two wines of international acclaim, Barolo and Barbaresco. Along with Brunello from Montalcino, these comprise the three “Killer B’s” of Italy.
Possessing both high acidity and high tannic structure, wines made from Nebbiolo can last for decades. This doesn’t always vibe with the impatient wine lovers of the U.S. and so it is often possible to find young Nebs at a good value if you’re willing to put in the cellar time.
Thankfully somebody already paid rent on my Serraboella for 15 years so the payoff is all mine (also I got it for less than half price). Normally Barbarescos are best drunk between 5 and 10 years after bottling, but this one in particular is from Nieve, which produces Barbs that are longer lived and more Barolo-like.
Barbaresco is sort of like the younger brother to Barolo. While they both can show amazing depth, complexity, and extraction, the Barbarescos mature faster and don’t last as long. Even under these circumstances, my bottle would have remained solid until 2020, just to give you an idea of their longevity. A Barolo of similar provenance would likely just be peaking in 2020.
I promised my friend, Joel, the master of Italian cuisine, that I’d share this fine libation with him as long as it was accompanied by steak. However I also promised a taste to my brother and enological partner, Dave, but upcoming marital obligations conspired to keep him at home. To fulfill both my promises I decided to perform the decanting at Dave’s house, wash out the original bottle, and transport the decanted wine to Joel’s place after giving Dave a prime taste. Dave has an enviable collection of wine accessories and decanting was a breeze. The cork was immaculate and there was minimal sediment, the wine showing almost no evidence of bricking.
Dave loved it, of course, and I departed to Joel’s carrying the refilled bottle like I would a newborn.
Joel had prepared sautéed Beef Shoulder, braised for 3 hours in a fine Marsala sauce (even when drinking North Italian, we’re eating south), accompanied by a Baked Spaghetti with Tomato, Kale, and Lemon, held together with Italian creme cheese, eggs and a generous helping of Pecorino Romano. For dessert he hand made a rustic Cassata. Which is home made white sponge cake, home made ricotta, cherries, pistachios, bittersweet chocolate, layered and baked with Marsala, and topped with an apricot jam icing.
The Barbaresco is outstanding, and I glow with pride sharing it with my epicurean friend. Pairing perfectly with the smokiness of the steaks. This wine
Shows remarkable brambly raspberry and sweet cherry notes on the palate. Great acidity integrates a cedar and spice box midpalate with a silky tannic finish. Truly an outstanding wine and without a doubt as good as the ‘98 Pio Cesare Barolo my brother opened over a year ago. It reaffirms Nebbiolo as my favorite all-time red grape variety, as long as its grown “at the foot of the mountain” as it were.
The wine lasted longer than most at Joel’s table but that didn’t stop us from opening the Norton Malbec Reserva, as well as enjoying the final remnants of the d’Albola.
If you can find the ‘07 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico, I highly recommend it. It got #47 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2010, and represents the best value in Chianti wine. That said, the ‘08 is a great contender. Dry sour Cherry with wonderfully integrated oak and fruit tannins. Delightful and uncomplicated, showing what great flavors can come from Tuscany.
The Norton Reserva comes from no less prestigious provenance. Their ‘07 got #90 in Spectator’s Top 100 of 2009.
This wine, while lacking the opulence of the ‘07 was outstanding in its balance. Brilliant Blackberry and hints of floral spice permeate the front and midpalate, with the finish showing a hint of well placed sweet oak.
Both wines were more than suitable to follow the brash Barbaresco, standing not only on their own merits, but possessing enough pedigree to be sharing the table with that giant.
Buona Sera my friends!